Johnstown Independent

After decades in old building, Post 254 ready for rec center

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After nearly a century at its current location, the American Legion Post 254 is moving less than half a mile down the road.

A lengthy discussion and legal process ended last week, when the post finally signed a lease agreement to take over the Johnstown Recreation Center from the village. Post 254 will pay $1 per year for a 99-year lease and will assume all maintenance and utility costs from Johnstown.

"You can't beat the price," Post 254 spokesman and former commander Bruce Tolle said.

The village will continue to mow the lawn of the 10.8-acre property and will plow snow in the winter.

Village Manager Jim Lenner said because the village already would have people in the area to maintain the cemetery, it was an easy compromise.

The new lease takes effect June 2, and after selling its existing space at 44 S. Main St., the post will need to move everything out of the old building by the end of the month.

Now its members are scrambling to find a home for everything while they make necessary changes to the rec center as quickly as possible.

"We've got a lot of stuff on our walls -- plaques and pictures and those things," Tolle said. "They'll need to be backed up somewhere while we get the new place sorted out. We'll obviously be changing the locks, and then we want to do some painting and figure out something for our records. We don't really have them locked up right now."

As part of the lease deal, the post also will have to get approval from Village Council before making changes.

Lenner said council would have to give official written approval to "any permanent changes to the inside that would affect our residents using the facility for the current purpose."

The first thing on the Post 254 agenda is to plan for a spaghetti dinner to kick off fundraising for the new building June 21 at the rec center.

"We'll probably have an open house, but that's probably around a year away," he said. "We're just trying to figure out how we can operate, how we can get by until we get things set up. We'll be moved out of the old place, but we won't have things settled, and we'll have an awful lot of things piled up in storage before we figure things out."

In the meantime, Tolle and other members are concerned that people might think they have disbanded, especially those who have been coming to the old location for decades.

"We've been at the old building since the 1920s, so when we're all at once gone, we need to be sure the community knows that we still exist; we just changed locations," he said. "That's my concern -- people saying, 'They're not there anymore. They disappeared.' We didn't disappear; we just moved."

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